Should we add Doxx to the Lexicon?

Emily Bazelon’s most recent NY Times Magazine article, The Online Avengers, details the activities of a group of individuals who “scour the internet for personal data” of bullies and then “publicly link that information to the perpetrator’s transgressions.”   This practice of trolling the internet for transgressions is known as “doxxing.” The article focuses in particular attention to a man named Ash, who, together with a woman named Katherine, created an online group called OpAntiBullying.  Although the group never met in person, and never met the victims for whom they championed, they worked together, for a while at least, to publicly shame adolescent bullies. One focus of the article is the infighting that eventually occurred among the small group of “do-gooders,” highlighting the fragile bond between zealots brought together by a common cause, and the way in which their united enthusiasm lead to an equally fevered undoing.

What struck me most about the article, was the use of the word doxx, which I hadn’t heard before.  A cursory google search suggests the word has yet to gain much traction. defines doxx as exposing someone’s true identity.  A practice, the site suggests “is one of the scummiest things someone can do on the internet.”  In contrast, Emily Bazelon profiles doxxing in a more positive manner.  In her article Bazelon credits doxxing with bringing down the defendants in the Steubenville sexual assault case and with bringing awareness to a similar assault in Canada.

Doxxers are hackers.  In most instances, a doxx can only occur if one breaks into someone’s twitter account, or instagram feed, finding incriminating comments or pictures. Consequently, most doxxers are anonymous, as was the case in the article.

But the practice and the goals of doxxers create a dichotomoy with which I am not sure I am comfortable.  While a doxxers goal is more laudable, the conduct necessary to reach his or her goal is  often  illegal.  Its a little like Robin Hood, committing a crime to achieve a better good. I am not sure how I come out on this, though I suspect I fall on the side of legality (would one expect otherwise from a lawyer?)

Regardless, I suspect  doxx will become a word uttered with increasing frequency in the coming year.  Thoughts, examples or opinions on doxx are greatly welcomed.


Social Justice and Social Media

Ariel Levy’s piece, Trial by Twitter,  presents an astute recount of how Twitter lead to the identification, prosecution, and ultimately conviction of two Steubenville High School football players who raped a classmate.  The article, which appears in this week’s New Yorker, supports a theory subscribed to dearly by authors of this blog; Social Media makes it harder for officers and defenders of the law to avoid prosecution of politically sensitive crimes.  As Levy points out, the Steubenville case came to light, in part, because the victim’s parents presented attorneys with a “jump drive” of tweets relating to the horrible incident.  The case divided a city, that was otherwise united in its adoration of its football team, making the prosecution somewhat contentious.  Despite the cadre of support for the young men and although at first there was no direct evidence of the crime, the stream of Facebook posts, tweets and other social media, on which high school students posted, created a mountain of evidence that was just too hard to ignore.

In the case of the Steubenville rape, the evidence that spurred the arrests not only lead to the public outcry for prosecution but also provided a start to the acquisition of enough evidence to support a prosecution.  In some cases, the social media rally sounds louder than the evidence can bear. In such an instance, we have, arguably,  a “Trayvon Martin” type of situation, in which the public outcry caused an attorney general to reconsider opening a case that had previously been deemed unwinable.  Ultimately, the initial call may have been right since the jury did not find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In both instances, however, we have a bit of a cautionary tale.  The blaring sound of social media can not be ignored when it comes to matters of social justice.

Social Media Strikes Again: Teens Charged With Making OnlineThreats Against Steubenville Rape Victim

There is no doubt that Social Media played an important role in the Steubenville Rape Case.   In fact, the prosecution would have had a significantly weaker case had it not been for the several tweets, videos, and pictures exchanged among students regarding the events that occurred.  It is disgraceful that young students would commit such a horrific act, and then brag about it through social networking sites.  It is even more troublesome, that the numerous students who viewed these tweets, pictures, and video did not report the incident.  Many would hope that young students would learn from this incident and the implications Social Networking Sites may have if used irresponsibly.  However, that is not that case for two teenage girls who used Social Media to threaten the young victim in the Steubenville Rape Case following the verdict.  A 16-year-old girl is charged with aggravated menacing after using Twitter to threaten the life of the victim, and a 15-year-old girl is charged with one count of menacing after making a threat on Facebook.

What will it take for young students to realize that their actions on Social Media sites have real life consequences?

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